Fermilab: Unlocking the secrets of the universe with the help of gases


What are we made of? How did the universe begin? Imagine working on the answers to these really big questions. Well, that is exactly what the scientists at Fermilab have been doing for the past 50 years.

A panel of US scientists recommended the construction of a proton accelerator in 1963 and initiated the formation of a national laboratory for physics. The scientists believed particle accelerators were needed to uncover the mysteries of matter and energy, and to learn more about what the universe is made of and how it evolved over time. Discovery science always leads to technological innovations that countries invest in to remain at the forefront of global competitiveness. The Atomic Energy Commission (the predecessor to the Department of Energy) took up the cause of creating a national physics laboratory and established Fermilab in 1967. 

Originally called the National Accelerator Laboratory — Fermilab was built on 6,800 acres of land near Batavia, Illinois and employed 17 people. Its first particle accelerator, known as the Main Ring, was about four miles in circumference and was the forerunner to this century’s most powerful particle colliders. Fifty years later, Fermilab houses seven particle accelerators and more than 4,500 scientists from 50 countries now use its accelerators, detectors, and computing facilities.

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